‘Lot of work ahead’ for the tourism industry

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - CRAIG DODDS

NOW that the gov­ern­ment has re­lented and eased tourists’ visa re­quire­ments, a lot of work is ahead to get the industry back on an up­ward tra­jec­tory, Tourism Min­is­ter Derek Hanekom said yes­ter­day.

“Yes, we have to re­gain lost ground, we must mar­ket more ag­gres­sively, more cre­atively, we have to im­prove our des­ti­na­tion, we have to re­gain the con­fi­dence of the world out there,” he told mem­bers of Par­lia­ment’s tourism over­sight com­mit­tee.

The mes­sage needed to go out that “we want you to visit South Africa and, with­out com­pro­mis­ing on our se­cu­rity in­ter­ests, we’re go­ing to try to make it as easy as pos­si­ble for you to come”.

He was brief­ing the com­mit­tee on the cabi­net de­ci­sion to amend visa reg­u­la­tions im­ple­mented ear­lier this year, and blamed for an alarm­ing drop in tourism fig­ures.

The changes in­clude that visa ap­pli­ca­tions will be ac­cepted by post from coun­tries where South Africa has no for­eign mis­sions, that ac­cred­ited travel agen­cies could ac­cept ap­pli­ca­tions in­stead of would-be vis­i­tors hav­ing to re­port in per­son to a South African mis­sion and the drop­ping of the re­quire­ment for peo­ple trav­el­ling with chil­dren from visa- ex­empt coun­tries to carry unabridged birth cer­tifi­cates.

Th­ese changes will be im­ple­mented in the next few months, with a top pri­or­ity be­ing the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of travel agen­cies in big mar­kets hit hard­est by the in- per­son re­quire­ment – China, In­dia and Rus­sia.

Hanekom said com­mu­ni­ca­tion would be key to en­sur­ing the new reg­i­men was un­der­stood, and for would-be vis­i­tors to re­alise that a “big ob­sta­cle” was be­ing re­moved.

It was clear the tough visa re­quire­ments had made a “sub­stan­tial neg­a­tive im­pact”.

The good news, how­ever, was that tourism fig­ures for July were bet­ter than those for the same month last year, with vis­its from the UK up 17 per­cent.

Hanekom also pre­sented re­sponses to a re­view of tourism mar­ket­ing body SA Tourism, con­ducted by a panel headed by former tourism min­is­ter Valli Moosa.

It made nu­mer­ous sug­ges­tions to im­prove the ef­fi­ciency of the work of SA Tourism.

Depart­ment di­rec­tor-gen­eral Vic­tor Tharage said a fund was needed to en­able the SA Na­tional Con­ven­tion Bureau to bid com­pet­i­tively for large con­ven­tions to be held in South Africa.

HAPPY: Min­is­ter of Tourism Derek Hanekom.

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